We have 6 standard Poodles and two Border Collies. When I started agility 12 years ago, I had no clue (nor did my first instructor! LOL). We fumbled along up through the classes. I tried many different instructors before finding the one we still go to today. We have been with her for more than 10 years now! She is very picky and that is what helps us to achieve the things we have with our agility dogs.
I think that private lessons are MORE important for beginners than seasoned competitors! Foundation in agility means everything! I often see novices put in charge of teaching the beginners when it should be the BEST instructors doing that.
Our four older standard Poodles have 16 MACHs (AKC championships) and 2 ADCH titles (USDAA championships- we don’t do much USDAA) amongst them. Our oldest SP, 13 years old now, retired just four double Qs short of her 8th MACH and our 8 year old SP is working on MACH 7. This is because of GREAT instruction!
Our two youngest SPs suffer from severe stress in the ring. I ran their mum and she was the same (I did manage to put two MACHs on her in spite of it). When I bred her, I assumed she was that way because she was basically a rescue that had been abused. Now I know different .
TO give you hope if you have a fearful dog, when my young dog started, she had ZERO drive to work, no focus at all and hated anything to do with training, toys or balls. I worked very hard. Last spring she wouldn’t even leave the start line! Then I got her to do that but she would do one jump and run the fence looking for a way out of the ring. It was horrible. I left many trials in tears! I went to lots of fun runs where I could take her favorite ball (yes she learned to love them) in with me and made it fun. Then I would do ONE jump, leave and celebrate! She really came around (I never thought she would).
Here is a video of her form yesterday picking up her 7th MXJ leg and running a whopping 5.64 yards per second even though she had two very wide turns. NEVER give up on a dog! If you make it fun, they will respond! We NEVER EVER use corrections in our training!
PS. We use the 2x2 weave training method to train our dogs. My husband and I filmed it for Susan G and he edited it and put in the graphic and music so perhaps I am biased, but there is no better way to train weave poles!